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Readers, Authors, Fans

Two great blogs about the relationship between author and reader floated across my screen today: The first by the always brilliant John Scalzi – How to Be a Good Fan The second by Brenna Clarke Gray over at BookRiot – Readers Don’t Owe Authors Sh*t For my part I’ve not been doing this long enough, and haven’t quite the volume of feedback to have a sense of my relationship with those fans I have. As an author, all I can say thus far is that I get a few nice comments and emails on this blog, Twitter and Facebook every now and then, and my interactions with those commenters always make my day that bit nicer. As a fan, of all sorts of stuff – I am basically fannish, I have the fan gene, I fan therefore I am – I just try not to be a dick. I mean, I went to watch them film Doctor Who the other day; didn’t vault the barrier, shout out to get the actors’ attention, or refuse to put away my camera when I was asked nicely. I don’t go up to famous people on the street if I recognise them, figuring that they’re on their own time – and working where I do, I regularly pass very famous folk on my wanderings, some of whom I really would like to get an autograph from. But at conventions I reckon they’re on duty, so to speak, and have been known to go and introduce myself and diffidently fawn a bit. Most regularly, though, I’ll tweet something nice at an author, musician or...
The Paps, in their own words

The Paps, in their own words

Picture the scene… I’m standing in Trafalgar Square watching them film the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. I’m standing behind a barrier watching Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman filming a scene. There are other members of the public here taking pics and a good-natured, smiley guard on the opposite side of the barrier to make sure we don’t get in the way. One of the crew comes up to the guard and tells him that some paparazzi are being aggressive to members of the public by the steps to The National Gallery. Smiley guard goes  with police officer to tell them off – there are children here, after all. Result: the paps come and stand on either side of me. They talk over my head. Here is an exact transcript of their conversation, with no addition or embellishment: Pap 1: Thing is, I f***ing hate Doctor Who. F***ing rubbish. Wouldn’t f***ing watch it if you f***ing paid me. Pap 2: The bird’s nice looking though. Pap1: Yeah. (Pointing at smiley guard) He’s a funny c*** inne. Pap 2: Yeah, weird c***. Pap 1: (Addressing smiley guard) Oi! You shouldn’t let this lot in here (indicates public). Should just be paps. Smiley guard: (Smiling) Well, your photos aren’t gonna be worth nothing once this lot have put theirs up on Twitter. (Wanders off smiling). One-nil to smiley guard, I reckon. Meanwhile, in front of us, Matt Smith earned his wages like nobody’s business. Don’t believe me? Check this out!...

Rage fatigue and professionalism

So Margaret Thatcher died. For those who don’t know who she was, she was British Prime Minister during my youth and did a lot of things that were extremely controversial. And that’s all I’m saying about it. Why? Two reasons. First, I work for the Government in my 9-5 job at the moment, so I’m not really allowed to say anything overtly political – it could get me fired. I really can’t afford to get fired. But more importantly, I try very hard to use my online presence to only put out positivity. And engaging with Thatcher’s legacy in any way shape or form is going to offend at least half of my potential readership a whole heck of a lot. Not that I’m unwilling to offend. Sometimes I think it’s very necessary. But most of the time, what would be the point? Increasingly I tend towards the view that people only read articles that they expect will reflect their views. Very few people are willing – or able – to seek out viewpoints that differ from their basic kneejerk reactions, consider them carefully and thoughtfully, and decide to either reject them anew or, perhaps, to amend their views somewhat if they were persuaded. So those who hated her and everything she stood for have articles like Russell Brand’s piece on Thatcher to read. And those who loved what she stood for and cherish her memory can enjoy David Cameron’s eulogy. I have very strong opinions indeed about her. VERY strong. My close friends know what I think. But I don’t for one second flatter myself that anybody else is interested. And even if...
Iain Banks and deferred pleasures

Iain Banks and deferred pleasures

The first Iain Banks book I read was The Wasp Factory. I knew I was going to enjoy it, so I put it aside as a reward for finishing my finals at University. It sat on my shelf, a deferred pleasure. I remember the circumstances of reading it vividly – I had been to our graduation ball and, unable to sleep after a very drunken, flirty evening, I collapsed on my bed and picked up the book. I didn’t sleep that night at all. I devoured that story and, still awake at 6am, I went for a walk in the early morning mists, my head swimming with excitement about my future, and the strange, dislocated sense of formless dread that Banks had conjured in me. “Come outside,” the book seemed to say, “the world is far, far weirder than you could possibly imagine…” Looking back on that moment of transition, it feels almost as if it was Banks himself who ushered me out of adolescence into the wider world with a warm but slightly ghoulish grin of amused invitation. I read The Crow Road in one sitting, too, in an attic bedsit in Brussels where I hid from the menagerie of freaks who shared the house with me – the mad, snaggle-toothed landlady, her grotesquely fat son who read books about nineteenth century post codes, the alcoholic Aussie tennis coach, and the Irish girl across the hall, who I loved with a fervent, unrequited passion – they swim in and out of Gallanach in my muddled memories, no more real than Uncle Rory, Prentice, Ashley and the rest. Two...